May 2 – June 20, 2015
Opening reception: Saturday, May 2 from 3-5pm
Henri Venne: Resurfacing

Text by Sophie Lynch

In Resurfacing, Henri Venne transports his viewers into blurred landscapes that evoke out of focus recollections. These contemplative works recall mirages or ungraspable mental images that emerge or dissolve in fleeting, ethereal, spaces. With filters in front of his photographic lens, Venne captures misty bands of colour that allude to abstracted landscapes and gradually flow into each other like elusive memories, resurfacing or fading into oblivion.

Since its inception, photography has often been used to freeze a fleeting moment from the flux of life. Rather than focusing his lens on the medium’s technical recording abilities, Venne blurs the line between painting and photography in works that render discernible the emotions that permeate our memories of landscapes. While landscapes, like photographs, often give the impression of stability and permanence, they fluctuate and are continually reshaped like past experiences remembered or forgotten.

Dark blue hues bleed into seemingly weightless expanses of greys and yellow-greens. The blurred boundaries of translucent fields of colour seem to float against undefined grounds like in paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist who used large expanses of colour to elicit emotional and spiritual experiences. Venne’s vaporous colours drown, absorb and envelop viewers in the imaginative, affective dimensions of memory. While misty, ambiguous edges give the impression of undulating horizon lines, Venne disrupts the pictorial conventions associated with linear perspective. In these works, the contrast between flatness and depth, like that between memory and forgetting, collapses in an ambiguous space where shapes cannot be firmly located or past experiences distinctly remembered. Forms are not sharply demarcated, reflecting the ambiguous limits of remembering sensory impressions.

The stacked, hovering fields of colour recall the desaturation of hues used to create atmospheric perspective, a technique often used by the Romantic landscape painters, and give a blurred impression of memories that evaporate, dissolve or reappear. As the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) insists, “There is no perception which is not full of memories. With the immediate and present data of our senses we mingle a thousand details out of our past experience.”1 Whereas our perception of landscapes is clouded by memories, Venne works with minimal photographic details to retrieve and capture emotive instants. If our mental images and recollections continually impinge upon our perception, these works are layered with multiple strata of memory. The boundaries between the past and the present appear as intermingled and evanescent as Venne’s nebulous coloured areas.